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Come in, light a candle: Armada parish plants seeds of faith at country fair

St. Mary Mystical Rose has always staffed Armada Fair food booth; this year, its new family of parishes is serving up an extra helping of faith

ARMADA  Each summer, the small rural town of Armada hosts its annual fair, complete with cows and sheep, lemonade and elephant ears, rides, a demolition derby and a rodeo. 

Many of those who have moved out of the northern Macomb County town return every year for the fair. Walking the streets, one gets the impression that everyone knows everyone else as they greet one another with smiles and familiar questions. 

The town’s Catholic parish, St. Mary Mystical Rose, runs the largest food pavilion at the fair, and this year, St. Mary’s, along with its newly appointed family of parishes — St. Augustine in Richmond and Holy Family in nearby Memphis — added evangelization to the menu. 

Fairgoers often park at the church and have to walk past its doors in order to reach the fair entrance. This year, they will be greeted by friendly parishioners offering rosaries, prayer cards, Miraculous Medals and an invitation to enter the small country church to light a candle and pray before the Lord. (James Silvestri | Special to Detroit Catholic)

A short distance from the fairgrounds, St. Mary’s is a popular parking spot for fairgoers, who walk past the church in order to reach the fair’s entrance. Along the way, passersby are greeted by friendly parishioners offering rosaries, prayer cards, Miraculous Medals and an invitation to enter the small country church to light a candle and pray. 

The church will remain open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the fair, which runs from Aug. 16-22. Fr. Steve Mateja said the intention is to be a welcoming presence to all without being overbearing or abrasive. 

“We want to greet people at a basic entry-level, just letting them know who we are,” said Fr. Mateja, who ministers at St. Mary Mystical Rose. “A lot of people come from Armada or from outside Armada, and they park here because it is a big parking lot and it is accessible. We let them know that we are here and (that they can pray before) the Blessed Sacrament.”

In addition to being a great form of evangelization, Fr. Mateja said it’s an opportunity for the three local parishes to come together as a family of parishes and serve the community. (Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

A sign outside St. Mary Mystical Rose Parish invites passersby — many of whom use the parish’s parking lot during the Armada Fair — to visit the church to pray. (Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

As of Tuesday, Fr. Mateja said efforts had been successful, with more than 100 visitors taking advantage of the opportunity to pray inside the church –– including two young men who weren’t Catholic but responded to Fr. Mateja’s invitation to visit the church. 

“When I was at the food booth, we were giving out free crucifixes and Miraculous Medals on chains, and one young man was putting the crucifix around his neck,” Fr. Mateja said. “I said, ‘Hey man, I blessed that,’ and he said, ‘Awesome, I am not even Catholic.’ I told him he should light a candle on his way back, and I saw him at the church (later on). He went in to pray, make an intention and to light a candle.” 

Fr. Steve Mateja said a majority of those entering the church to light a candle and pray were visitors, not regular parishioners. (Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

Volunteers focused on greeting and welcoming fairgoers and offering them rosaries, prayer cards and entrance into the open church. (Gabriella Patti | Detroit Catholic)

In addition to being a great form of evangelization, Fr. Mateja said it’s an opportunity for the three parishes to come together as a family to serve the community. Posted in front of the parish were two tents, one run by St. Augustine’s Right to Life group and the other by a rotating set of volunteers from all three parishes who greeted and welcomed fairgoers. 

Nancy Lemieux, of Holy Family Parish, was sitting outside for the second day in a row; she had originally volunteered for just an hour on Monday but felt compelled to stay longer. 

Lemieux recalled an interaction with a woman who accepted an invitation to light a candle, telling Lemieux she “used to be Catholic.” 

The church will remain open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day of the fair, which runs from Aug. 16-22. Fr. Steve Mateja said the intention is to be a welcoming presence to all without being overbearing or abrasive. (James Silvestri | Special to Detroit Catholic)

“When she came back, we talked for a bit and gave her a rosary and a couple of medals, including one of St. Francis. She mentioned to me that St. Francis was her father’s favorite,” Lemieux said. “I then handed her a Miraculous Medal, hoping that would draw her back to the faith, and she told me that was her mother’s favorite medal. She left wearing both her mother and father’s favorite medals.” 

The Holy Spirit is working, Lemieux said, adding that people are curious about the faith, especially after a year of stresses and anxieties during the pandemic. 

One never knows how a small seed will grow into a robust faith, said volunteer Patricia Grudzinski, from St. Mary Mystical Rose. 

“We have to be outgoing,” Grudzinski said. “You never know how (a conversation) is going to grow once they leave and think about it. It might not necessarily bear fruit right now, but maybe down the line. You are just planting a seed. And it always grows.”

Vaccination is an act of love, pope says in ad campaign

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When each individual makes a small act of charity, like getting the COVID-19 vaccine, every gesture added together can transform the world, Pope Francis said in a global ad campaign.

"Being vaccinated with vaccines authorized by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love -- love for oneself, love for one's family and friends, love for all people," he said in a public service announcement released Aug. 18 in Rome.

The video message was part of a global effort by the U.S.-based nonpartisan, nonprofit Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative's "It's Up To You" campaign to increase people's confidence in COVID-19 vaccines by reminding them that the vaccines are safe, effective and save people's lives. The Vatican's Dicastery for Integral Human Development also cooperated with the educational initiative.

The three-minute video in Spanish with English, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles features Pope Francis and six cardinals and archbishops from North and South America. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is among them.

The "It's Up To You" campaign has been inviting "trusted messengers" to deliver "fact-based and life-saving information to populations hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccines, helping them to make informed decisions for themselves and their families," it said in a joint news release with the Ad Council.

Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, said, "The role of trusted messengers to educate and inspire their networks is undeniable.”

"We are extremely grateful to (Pope Francis) and the cardinals and archbishops for lending their voices and platforms to help people across the globe feel more confident in the vaccines," particularly to the world's 1.3 billion Catholics, she said in the news release.

It said 72% of the adult population and 67% of Hispanic adults have currently been vaccinated against COVID-19 with at least one dose in the United States.

But COVID-19 cases are on the rise worldwide, especially in North, Central and South America. Some nations are still showing very low rates of individuals who are fully vaccinated, such as Honduras with only 5.5% of the adult population and El Salvador with 30%.

While access to vaccines is a challenge, "confidence in the vaccines also presents a hurdle," the news release said.

In his message, the pope said, "Thanks to God and to the work of many, we now have vaccines to protect us from COVID-19. They grant us the hope of ending the pandemic, but only if they are available to all and if we work together.”

Getting inoculated "is an act of love" for oneself, family, friends and all people, he said.

"Love is also social and political" as these individual "small gestures of personal charity" add up, "overflowing" into something universal that is "capable of transforming and improving societies," he said.

"Vaccination is a simple but profound way of promoting the common good and caring for each other, especially the most vulnerable," the pope said.

"I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love; no matter how small, love is always great. Contribute with these small gestures for a better future. God bless you, and thank you," he said.

Also offering messages encouraging vaccination were: Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes of Mexico; Cardinal Óscar Rodríguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Cardinal Cláudio Hummes, retired archbishop of São Paulo; Cardinal Gregorio Rosa Chávez, auxiliary bishop of San Salvador, El Salvador; and Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, Peru.

The campaign encouraged people to go to and for more information and answers to questions about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Cardinal Burke on ventilator, in ‘serious but stable’ condition with COVID-19

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- U.S. Cardinal Raymond L. Burke remains hospitalized, on a ventilator, "in serious but stable condition" with COVID-19, a spokesman said late Aug. 17.

Father Paul N. Check, executive director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Cardinal Burke's home diocese, said the cardinal's family "does not plan to disclose his location" but thanked the faithful for prayers and rosaries being said for him.

"The cardinal has received the sacraments from priests nearby to him. There are several relics in his room," the statement said.

"His family -- who with a team of doctors, is responsible for all medical decisions while the cardinal remains sedated and on a medical ventilator -- has great confidence in the care he is receiving," said the statement posted on the shrine's website.

"The period of hospitalization, and for now isolation because of the COVID virus, may be prolonged as His Eminence’s body fights the infection and recovers strength," the statement said. "For the time being, the sedation assists his own peace and rest.”

On Aug. 14 the cardinal's official Twitter account @cardinalrlburke published a tweet that said Cardinal Burke had been admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 and was "being assisted by a ventilator. Doctors are encouraged by his progress.”

The tweet said the cardinal had "faithfully prayed the rosary for those suffering from the virus. On this vigil of the Assumption, let us now pray the rosary for him.”

The cardinal had first tweeted Aug. 10: "Praised be Jesus Christ! I wish to inform you that I have recently tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. Thanks be to God, I am resting comfortably and receiving excellent medical care. Please pray for me as I begin my recovery. Let us trust in Divine Providence. God bless you.”

The cardinal has not made it public knowledge on whether he was vaccinated for the 2019 novel coronavirus.

The Vatican had started offering all Vatican residents, retirees and employees the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech mid-January 2021. The 73-year-old cardinal was eligible for the vaccine as a member of the College of Cardinals and a member of the Apostolic Signatura, which he led as prefect from 2008 until his resignation in 2014.

Pope Francis, who received the vaccine as soon as it was available along with retired Pope Benedict XVI, said people have a moral obligation to be vaccinated as soon as possible "because it is about your life but also the lives of others.”

Before the vaccines had been made available to the public, Cardinal Burke had voiced some concerns during a May 2020 talk to the Rome Life Forum about the impact of the international health crisis, particularly on people's access to the sacraments.

His concerns included:

  • The belief there was "a certain movement to insist that now everyone must be vaccinated against the coronavirus COVID-19 and even that a kind of microchip needs to be placed under the skin of every person, so that at any moment he or she can be controlled by the state regarding health and about other matters which we can only imagine.”
  • That it is "never morally justified to develop a vaccine through the use of the cell lines of aborted fetuses. The thought of the introduction of such a vaccine into one's body is rightly abhorrent.”
  • “Vaccination itself cannot be imposed, in a totalitarian manner, on citizens.”

He said, "while the state can provide reasonable regulations for the safeguarding of health, it is not the ultimate provider of health. God is," and it would be God who offers "the direction and strength to take whatever human measures are required to protect ourselves, according to the demands of right reason and of the moral law.”

The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published a note Dec. 21, 2020, reiterating church teaching that when alternative vaccines are not available, it is morally acceptable to receive vaccines developed or tested using cell lines originating from aborted fetuses, in this case, including COVID-19 vaccines.

However, "both pharmaceutical companies and governmental health agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for either health care providers or the people to be vaccinated," it added. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines did not use abortion-derived cell lines in developing or producing their vaccines, but they did in lab testing.

In a March 21, 2021, post, "Combat against the Coronavirus, COVID-19," on his website, the cardinal encouraged people to avoid close contact with others, particularly through group gatherings, disinfect surfaces and quarantine when testing positive.

The crisis was an opportunity for people to turn more deeply to their faith and the importance of the sacrament, he added.

The cardinal is a native of Richland Center, Wisconsin, in the La Crosse Diocese, and served as bishop of that diocese from 1995 to 2004, as archbishop of St. Louis from 2004 to 2008, and as prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Signature from 2008 to 2014.

While the cardinal often resides in Italy, he travels extensively and was in the United States at the time of sharing the news about contracting the virus.

Brazilian bishop resigns after inappropriate video goes viral

SÃO PAULO (CNS)  ­─ Bishop Tomé Ferreira da Silva of São José do Rio Preto resigned after a video of him exposing himself on an internet call went viral on social media Aug. 13. The resignation was accepted by Pope Francis and the Brazilian bishops' conference Aug. 18.

Archbishop Moacir Silva of Ribeirão Preto was appointed apostolic administrator of the diocese.

A local paper, Diário da Região, reported that the bishop confirmed that he was the one who appears on the video but declined to comment on the case.

Some Catholics from Rio Preto said they were ready to petition the Vatican for the bishop's replacement.

"We had already signed another petition, in 2014, asking for his replacement, but we received no response. This time, we hope that the church will pronounce itself, because after the video, his (da Silva) presence in front of the diocese and in celebrations will be difficult," Natalia Truzzi, one of the signers of the petition, told the paper.

In September 2018, the Vatican sent a representative to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of São José do Rio Preto. The Vatican investigation involved allegations of an alleged omission by Bishop da Silva in relation to the allegations. At the time, there were rumors that the bishop had exchanged sexual messages with a young man.

In 2015, São Paulo Cardinal Odílo Scherer was sent to the region to look into allegations of embezzlement from the diocese and that the bishop was having a romantic relationship with his former driver. An internal investigation cleared Bishop da Silva of the accusations.

Washington Archdiocese offers practical steps for caring for creation

WASHINGTON (CNS) ─ Launched Aug. 16, the Archdiocese of Washington's action plan to promote "an integral ecology" includes practical ways that parishes, Catholic schools and institutions, and individuals and families can care for creation, drawing on environmental science and inspired by Catholic social teaching.

After Pope Francis issued his landmark 2015 encyclical on the environment, "Laudato Si', on Care for Our Common Home," the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development published a document listing seven ways to implement the encyclical.

The dicastery's document serves as the framework for the Archdiocese of Washington's "Laudato Si': Embarking On A Seven-Year Journey Promoting An Integral Ecology" action plan.

Listed below are the Vatican document's seven ways to carry out what the encyclical teaches.

Each category includes ideas from the archdiocese's action plan on how Catholics can bring those markers to life in their personal lives and homes or at their parishes, schools and institutions:

-- "Response to the cry of the earth: greater use of clean renewable energy and reduction of fossil fuels in order to achieve carbon neutrality efforts to protect and promote biodiversity guaranteeing access to clean water for all.

Possible actions: sealing or caulking around windows and door frames; turning off light sources when not needed; adjusting temperatures to 70 degrees or lower in winter and 80 degrees or higher in summer; lowering water consumption replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs; creating gardens; developing a facilities plan for parishes or schools and action steps to reduce emissions; introducing storm water and pollution reduction methods; beginning a parish or school composting program; and installing solar panels on property.

-- "Response to the cry of the poor": defense of human life from conception to death and all forms of life on earth, with special attention to vulnerable groups such as Indigenous communities, migrant children at risk through slavery, etc.

Possible actions: volunteering to do a parish clean-up; assisting vulnerable persons; supporting charity programs including Catholic Charities and Catholic Relief Services; contributing food or financial donations to your parish food pantry; developing or expanding parish emergency funds to help individuals with energy, water and other bills; and volunteering with a local clean the waterways project.

-- "Ecological economics": sustainable production, fair trade, ethical consumption, ethical investments, divestment from fossil fuels and any economic activity harmful to the planet and the people, investment in renewable energy, etc.

Possible actions: reducing food waste; reducing meat-based meals; starting a home garden; composting food scraps; buying locally produced and prepared food; buying fair-trade and sustainably-produced food; and starting a parish garden.

-- Adoption of a simple lifestyle: sobriety (intense focus) in the use of resources and energy, avoid single-use plastic, adopt a more plant-based diet and reduce meat consumption, greater use of public transport and avoid polluting modes of transportation, etc.

Possible actions: cutting down or eliminating single-use plastic such as water bottles; buying fewer nonessential items; cutting down or eliminating foam-based food containers; encouraging recycling, wasting less and avoiding throwing away food whenever possible; driving less; and taking time to pray and give thanks.

-- Ecological education: rethink and redesign educational curricula and educational institution reform in the spirit of integral ecology to create ecological awareness and action, promoting the ecological vocation of young people, teachers and leaders of education, etc.

Possible actions: organizing local environmental educational trips; finding nature preserves in the area; expanding parish and school libraries with resources promoting the vision of "Laudato Si'"; incorporating church teaching on care for the environment into faith formation programs; and involving parish religious education programs, youth ministries and Catholic schools in living out the teachings of "Laudato Si'."

-- Ecological spirituality: recover a religious vision of God's creation, encourage greater contact with the natural world in a spirit of wonder, praise, joy, and gratitude, promote creation-centered liturgical celebrations, develop catechesis prayer, retreats, formation, etc.

Possible actions: homilies on pro-life values and integration of Catholic social and moral teaching regarding care for creation; participating in the annual archdiocesan "Green Mass"; bringing in expert speakers for conversations at parish or school events; and offering parish and school events and formation opportunities promoting the church's teaching on climate change and social, racial and environmental justice.

-- Emphasis on community involvement and participatory action: to care for creation at the local, regional, national and international levels (promote advocacy and people's campaigns, encourage rootedness in local territory and neighborhood ecosystems, etc.)

Possible actions: using parish and Catholic school communications, including social media, to spread the message of "Laudato Si'" and put its teachings into action; form parish social concerns teams that focus on integral ecology; engage ministries and groups in collaborative ecological efforts; connect with other parishes through the Washington archdiocesan Care for Creation Committee; and connect to interfaith groups focusing on environmental advocacy.

The Catholic Standard is the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Washington.

Bishops say U.S. government must urgently act to relocate fleeing Afghans

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Saying that a humanitarian crisis is developing in Afghanistan, the chairmen of two U.S. bishops' committees called on the U.S. government to "act with utmost urgency" to resettle thousands of Afghan citizens entering the country under special immigrant visas.

The U.S. government has said it would resettle up to 30,000 people who have applied for Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs.

The flow of refugees has been fueled by the rapid takeover of the Afghan government by Taliban forces in the first half of August as the U.S. withdrew its military, which has been in the troubled country for nearly 20 years.

"The government's goal to relocate as many as 30,000 SIV applicants to the United States remains a monumental task that hangs in the balance," said Auxiliary Bishop Mario E. Dorsonville of Washington, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Migration, and Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace.

"We know that time is of the essence to help our brothers and sisters in need, and we call on our government to act with the utmost urgency, considering all available avenues to preserve life," the bishops said in a statement released late Aug. 17.

Describing videos and photos of the desperation of Afghan citizens as the Taliban swept into power Aug. 15 as "difficult to view," the chairmen expressed concern for all people requiring evacuation, "as well as Afghan women and girls, who risk losing opportunities gained over the last two decades and now face potential mistreatment.”

The statement also said that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic Charities and other agencies have been assisting the U.S. government in working with SIV applicants at Fort Lee, south of Richmond, Virginia.

"We will continue to work as long as necessary until those who are in harm's way are brought to safety," the bishops said.

The statement closed with an offer to join with Pope Francis in praying for peace in Afghanistan, "that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue.”

Meanwhile, Pax Christi International expressed concern for Afghanistan and the Taliban's sudden rise to power, noting the insurgents' history of atrocities that has continued in recent weeks as it expanded its control of the country.

Citing its commitment to nonviolence, the Brussels-based Catholic peace organization said in a statement Aug. 17 that "we are heartbroken by what decades of war and violence have wrought.”

Pax Christi called on the Taliban "to act in accordance with your own dignity as human beings" and to honor its promises "not to take a path of retaliation to create a secure environment.”

"We implore you to reject abusive power, to respect the equal rights of your Afghani sisters and brothers and to recognize in particular the great capacity of women to contribute to the well-being of society," the statement said.

The organization also invited the world community, including the U.S. working through the United Nations, to ensure human rights protections and provide for the safe evacuation of vulnerable Afghans; provide visa or immigration accommodations globally, including Europe and the U.S.; and provide aid to neighboring countries of Afghanistan that are likely to host refugees.

Pax Christi also urged world leaders to increase and negotiate reliable access to humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan and ensure participation of Afghan civil society groups in deciding how humanitarian aid is used and the resettling refugees.

Finally, Pax Christi welcomed prayers for peace for Afghanistan and for efforts to end the suffering the country has endured for decades.

Catholic League’s new athletic directors are passionate about sports, schools

ORCHARD LAKE — Although the Catholic League’s five new athletic directors settling in for the 2021-22 school year bring a mix of experience to their jobs, one thing they all share in common is a passion for Catholic League education. 

Among the five, Bloomfield Hills Academy of the Sacred Heart’s Paige Comito and Madison Heights Bishop Foley’s Mike Maltese are first-time athletic directors. However, this will not be their first year at their respective schools. Comito is a Sacred Heart “lifer” who served as an understudy to the retiring Sal Malek last year, while Maltese is a Catholic school graduate who has taught at Bishop Foley for six years.

Comito returned to her roots after serving as a school psychologist and coach at several schools around Chicago.

“With COVID, it was just time (to come back home),” she said. “It was a really great opportunity. I never thought I’d return to Michigan, but it was the right opportunity and the right time, and I obviously have a love for Sacred Heart.”

Meanwhile, Maltese brings a familiarity with his school, the student body, and school sports into his new role.

“The position just kind of opened up and I’ve always looked to do this,” he said. “I’ve definitely had some great athletic directors in the past, and I can take some good things from them. I’ve also had some athletic directors with some different things that they maybe fell short on, so I’m excited to put my thumbprint on the Bishop Foley athletic department as a whole.”

Comito graduated from Sacred Heart in 2005 and played on two state-champion lacrosse teams under the late coach Vicki Oakley. Since then, she has coached lacrosse and field hockey — two sports that make up a large part of the school’s athletic identity — but also acknowledges the sports landscape has changed significantly since then.

“I think Sacred Heart has really struggled with enrollment over the last 10 years or so, which has impacted our athletic teams, but I do feel we are on the uptick, and as our enrollment improves, our sports teams will get stronger and stronger,” Comito said. 

As a small school, Sacred Heart has increasingly relied on co-op programs — joining forces with other nearby Catholic schools in order to provide additional athletic opportunities for its students. Under Malek’s watch, Sacred Heart students have been able to swim with Bishop Foley and play soccer with Clarkston Everest Collegiate, showing achievements in each.

“One of our soccer players is going on to play in college. We had an all-state swimmer who is actually a Sacred Heart student who swims for Bishop Foley, and that was pretty exciting,” Comito said. “The co-op between Everest and Sacred Heart is really positive. Not only does it bring two school communities together, but it’s also allowed some conversation about bringing in some different sports.” 

Comito was also upbeat when discussing Sacred Heart’s more traditional sports.

“Even though we had a really crazy year last year with COVID, we still had a successful year in athletics,” she said. “We won a state championship for tennis; we won the Catholic League championship for field hockey; we won the Catholic League championship for soccer; soccer also won districts. We did pretty well for what we have.” 

Meanwhile, Maltese also brings a familiarity with the Catholic League to his new post.

“I do have a background in Catholic education,” he said. “I went to St. Angela grade school in Roseville, then I went four years at Harper Woods Notre Dame, which has been closed several years now. I also played five sports when I was at Notre Dame, so I’m familiar with different sports. I know the different types of parents that you deal with and the different types of obstacles that you run into, but overall, I’m excited for the new opportunity.” 

He’s taken his hockey career the farthest, with coaching stops at Warren DeLaSalle, Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett.

“I’ve got the experience coaching; once this opportunity came up, it was an easy transition for me,” Maltese said. 

Maltese succeeds Tony DeMare, a former Dearborn Divine Child athletic director who came out of retirement to fill the opening when predecessor Brian Hassler took the post at Rochester Adams mid-year.

“Brian Hassler’s been a great resource for me; he’s always been a great, great friend of mine as well,” Maltese said. “We started at the same time. He was the AD there in my first year as a teacher there, we were kind of bouncing ideas off of each other. I learned a lot from him and his passion for the job. The joke was that Brian literally lived there. He put his heart and soul into it; hopefully I can bring the same type of enthusiasm into the position.” 

Although a full-time athletic director, Maltese’s duties also include managing rentals of the school’s athletic fields.

“It is turning into a beautiful facility,” he said. “We got the turf field several years back, and we’ve started making upgrades to the gymnasium. We had the weight room revamped a few years back. We’re making small progresses for the overall athletic department.

“It’s going to be fun to be part of it all.”

Three others with solid Catholic school experience also take new posts as athletic directors this fall. Warren De La Salle head football coach Dan Rohn will add the AD role; he held both roles simultaneously at Grand Rapids West Catholic last decade.

Mike Watson, who previously served De La Salle as its athletic director, moves across town to fill the vacancy at Bloomfield Hills Marian, succeeding the late David Feldman, who passed away after contracting COVID-19 last winter. This will be Watson’s 23rd year as an athletic director.

Brandon Malinowski takes the reigns at Farmington Hills Mercy. Malinowski is a true Catholic League insider, most recently having served the league as an assistant director of athletics. He had previously been an ice hockey and softball coach at Mercy. In addition, he succeeds his mother, Nancy, who retired this summer after serving as the Marlins’ AD for 30 years.

Military archbishop says human dignity of Afghan people ‘must be respected’

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The human dignity of Afghanistan’s people “must be respected” amid the chaos in the country, the head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services said Aug. 17.

"The fall of Afghanistan and the departure of its elected leaders are a cause for concern, because of the possible denial of human rights, particularly for women and girls," said Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio.

The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, swiftly took control of the capital city of Kabul Aug. 15 after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country. Several other major cities have fallen to the Taliban.

President Joe Biden announced in April that he would end U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan, and he gave the Pentagon until Aug. 31 to complete the withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 to 3,000 troops in that country when he made his announcement. As of mid-August, the number of U.S. troops had dropped to about 650.

But since the Taliban began taking over large swaths of the country, Biden ordered the return of several thousand U.S. troops to secure the airport in Kabul and conduct security measures to help with the evacuation of thousands of people who want to leave the country.

"My two visits to the country confirmed my impression regarding the sacrifices, even including death, made by many members of the Armed Forces and civilians striving to bring stability and peace to the people there," Archbishop Broglio said.

"At the moment, however, we can only pray for the Afghani people, support any humanitarian efforts that are in place there (especially through Catholic Relief Services), and give voice to local leadership on all sides," he said.

"Naturally, I am particularly concerned about those in the U.S. Armed Forces who continue to defend refugees and assets in the country," the archbishop added. "We pray that there will be no violence and a peaceful departure for all of those desiring to leave.”

On Aug. 16, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops tweeted: "Let us continue to pray for all those in #Afghanistan and for peace amid conflict. #PrayTogether.”

Nationals who provided translation, interpretation, security, transportation and other vital services to the U.S. troops in the last two decades have feared reprisals from Afghanistan's Taliban, even more so now as its fighters advance around the country in the absence of the U.S. military.

The New York Times reported Aug. 17 that "tens of thousands of Afghan nationals" who risked their lives to assist the U.S. military in Afghanistan "are more desperate than ever to leave.”

Citing data from the International Rescue Committee, a global nongovernmental humanitarian relief agency, the Times said over 300,000 Afghan civilians "have been affiliated with the American mission over its two-decade presence in the country ... but a minority qualify for refugee protection in the United States.”

In 2006, the U.S. Congress first authorized a bipartisan humanitarian program to provide Special Immigrant Visas, or SIVs, for nationals from Afghanistan and Iraq that include resettlement services and legal permanent residence for the approved principal applicants, their spouses and children.

Since the creation of the program, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services has worked with the U.S. Department of State, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and other nongovernmental organizations to provide resettlement services to some of the over 73,000 Afghan SIV holders and their families.

On July 14, the White House announced the emergency relocation of Afghan SIV applicants in their final stages of processing to the United States, with the first of that group arriving in the United States July 30.

Planeloads of Afghans arrived at Dulles International Airport in Virginia outside of Washington and they were then taken to Fort Lee, near Petersburg, Virginia. The families were pre-vetted and able to complete the immigration process safely stateside. Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, is helping resettle the newcomers.

As COVID-19 spreads, Tokyo Archdiocese suspends public Masses

TOKYO (CNS) -- The Tokyo Archdiocese suspended public Masses until Sept. 12 as COVID-19 cases continue to spread in Japan, especially in the capital and adjacent areas.

Archbishop Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo announced the new measures Aug. 14; they took effect Aug. 16, reported

During the four-week period, all public Masses are suspended. Masses in convents and religious houses are allowed provided there is no participation by those who are not members of the community, the prelate announced.

In the case of funerals, the announcement suggests that "after discussing with the bereaved family, they may proceed with cremation first and have the funeral Mass at a later date.”

The archbishop's notice added that any "decision on whether to continue with this response will be announced on or before Sept. 5.”

Similar to last year, during the period of suspension of public Masses, the archbishop's Sunday Masses will be livestreamed through the YouTube channel of St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo. Weekday Masses will also be broadcast from the channel, reported.

The announcement came less than two weeks before the Paralympics, which were to run Aug. 24-Sept. 5. In mid-August, an average of more than 16,600 cases of the virus were reported nationwide each day, a 77% increase over the previous week.

Many Japanese had protested that the Olympics were held in Japan July 23-Aug. 8. The government took measures such as restricting crowds in Tokyo, and athletes were kept in a bubble.

In mid-July, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Tokyo Archdiocese asked athletes and other visitors not to attend Mass at archdiocesan churches when they came for the Summer Games.

The measures in the Tokyo Archdiocese came as Japan's government extended the COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo and other cities until Sept. 12; it had been expected to expire at the end of August.

While half of Japan's more than 126 million people have received a first dose of a vaccine, less than 40% are fully vaccinated, reported.

Japan has recorded 1.15 million cases and 15,423 deaths from COVID-19, according to Our World in Data. The government has struggled to contain the outbreak in major cities, including Tokyo, and has faced criticism for a sluggish vaccination drive.

Caritas Italy, Jesuits suspend activities in Afghanistan as situation worsens

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Caritas Italy announced the suspension of charitable activities in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of the country.

In a statement released Aug. 15, Caritas said the "instability of the situation has led to the suspension of all activities" and has increased fears "of maintaining a presence in the future, as well as for the safety of the few Christian Afghans" in the country.

The Jesuits, who have been in Afghanistan since 2004, have also suspended their mission in the country "indefinitely.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Jesuit priest in New Delhi told Aug. 17 that two Jesuit priests are among many Indian nationals in Afghanistan waiting for their government's evacuation flights.

The Jesuit priests "are so far safe and are ready to fly to India” when flights resume, the unnamed priest said.

Four Missionaries of Charity nuns are also awaiting evacuation from the country. A representative for the religious congregation in Kolkata told the nuns are still in Afghanistan and that only one is an Indian national.

However, she declined to identify the nationalities of the other three nuns out of caution for their safety.

The Taliban, an extremist Islamic movement that ruled Afghanistan until ousted by a U.S.-led coalition nearly 20 years ago, swiftly took control of the capital city of Kabul Aug. 15 after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.

The U.S. invaded Afghanistan in late 2001 in a bid to dismantle al-Qaida and force the Taliban from power. More than 2,300 U.S. soldiers have died in the 20-year conflict, the longest war in U.S. history, and thousands of Afghan civilians were killed and displaced as a result of the conflict, according to the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan.

Caritas Italy, which has been present in the country since 1990, said that it ran several programs in Afghanistan that provided "emergency aid, rehabilitation and development.”

It also oversaw "the construction of four schools" in the central Ghor Province, as well as building 100 shelters for 483 refugee families in the Panjshir Valley, located 93 miles north of Kabul.

Prior to the Taliban's takeover, the Catholic charitable organization was focused mainly on helping "vulnerable minors.”

However, the withdrawal of U.S. forces has left the country "in a tragic abyss" after 20 years "with incalculable human costs and billions of euros in expenditures," it said.

"As always, it will be the weakest who pay the highest price," Caritas said. "Already tens of thousands of people are fleeing from the combat zones while the Taliban are now in the capital, Kabul. Along with embassy personnel, even the very few priests, religious men and women who are in Kabul are preparing for their forced return.”

Nevertheless, despite the challenges, Caritas said its office in Pakistan will oversee the arrival of "a growing number of refugees fleeing the war zone," which will increase pressure in surrounding countries.

Furthermore, Caritas said, Western countries will face "an increasing pressure of people fleeing the country.”

In Pakistan, Caritas will "evaluate the situation in the Quetta, along the border with Afghanistan, in view of the large influx of refugees," the statement said.